Skip to main content

Full text of "Mathura A District Memoir"

See other formats


INDIAN  CASTS,                                                     411
But a society, consisting only of priests, warriors, and slaves could not long
exist. Hence the gradual formation of a middle class, consisting of the off-
spring of mixed marriages, enterprizing natives, and such unaspiring members
of the dominant race as found trade mor'6 profitable, or congenial tp their
tastes, than either arms or letters. The character of this mixed population
would be influenced in the first instance by the nature of the country in which
they were resident. In one district the soil would he better adapted for pas-
turage, in another for agriculture. But in both it would be worked principally
by aborigines, both on account of the greater labour involved, and also because
the occupation of grazing large flocks and herds (which had been characteristic
of the Aryan race in Yedic times) is incompatible with the concentration which
is essential for the security of a small invading force. The graziers would
receive some name descriptive of their nomadic habits, as for example l Ahir';
the word being derived from abhi, i circum' and ir, i ire/ the "' circumeuntes^ or
wanderers. Similarly, other pastoral tribes—such as the Gwalas and the
Ghosis— derive their distinctive names from #0, c a cow,* combined with pdla,
' a keeper/ and ghosha, ' a cattle station ' In an agricultural district the corres-
ponding class would in like imtaner adopt'some title indicative of their occupa-
tion, as, for example, the Kisans from krishi,i husbandry/ the BMnhars from
bkumi, l the ground/ and in Bengal the Chasis from chds, £ ploughing. Or (and
the same remark applies to every other class) they might retain the old Indian
name of the district in which they were located, as the Kachhis from the coun-
try of Kachh. Again, so long- as vast tracts of lands were still covered with
forest, the followers of the chase would be at least as numerous as the tillers of
the soil or the grazers of cattle. And, since the Aryan, element in the middle
and lower strata of society was composed of. those per on s who, without any
penchant for learned study like the Brahmins, entertained a preference for
sedentary pursuits rather than those of a more exciting nature such as the majo-
rity of their Thakur kinsmen affected, so the castes that followed the chase, not
as an amusement, but as- a means of livelihood, would naturally consist exclu-
sively of aborigines. And as a matter of fact, it is found to be the case that all
such castes have the dark complexion and the other physical characteristics of
the lower race. Such are the Badhaks and Aheriyas, who derive their name—»
the one from the root, badh, ' to kill/ the other from the Hindi aher, ' game,—so?
-too, the Dhanuks and the Lodhas, whose names are contracted forms of Dhan.^
ushka/ *a bowman,' and Lubdhaka, < a huntsman.5 These two tribes have now
abandoned their hereditary avocations,—the Dhanuka being ordinarily village
watchmen, and the Lodhas agriculturists,—-though in Oudh the latter wers, till